Book Talk: Jimmy the Terrorist in small-town India

Thu Feb 24, 2011 5:02am EST
Email This Article |
Share This Article
  • Facebook
  • LinkedIn
  • Twitter
| Print This Article | Single Page
[-] Text [+]

By Tony Tharakan

NEW DELHI (Reuters Life!) - It took nearly a decade for Omair Ahmad's depiction of life in small-town India to take shape as a novel after starting life as a short story.

"Jimmy the Terrorist" was first written as a short story in 2002 in an attempt to understand how riots could affect a young man growing up in the northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh.

The demolition of a 16th-century mosque in the state's Ayodhya town in 1992 triggered some of India's worst riots that killed about 2,000 people.

Ahmad's novel, recently launched in India, is set in the fictional town of Moazzamabad, where protagonist Jamaal grows up in a Muslim neighborhood.

Ahmad, 36, told Reuters in an e-mail interview that the new "Jimmy the Terrorist" is very different.

Q: What was the inspiration behind "Jimmy the Terrorist?" What attracted you to the story?

A: "The inspiration behind 'Jimmy the Terrorist' was two-fold. For the original short story, written almost a decade ago, it was an effort to try to figure out the impact of the political violence -- riots, curfews, the basic fear of those days -- of the late 80s and early 90s on an anonymous young man in a nothing town in Uttar Pradesh -- something that decision makers in places like Delhi and Bombay were unlikely to see, and therefore fully appreciate. In a sense, how a terrorized young man might spew that fear out of himself. I guess over time I have aged a little more, and for the novel the questions, inspirations were different, more subtle. Possibly more the question of who is responsible for an action, and how we divide the individual from society. As I hope the novel shows, my response is the classical Indian response: it's complicated."

Q: The novel was originally written as a short story. How different was it from its present form?   Continued...